Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach seeks to tighten code enforcement rules

ST. PETE BEACH— Deteriorating homes, yards littered with junk, and overgrown vacant lots are just a few of the unsightly conditions the City Commission hopes to outlaw.

"Residents who have lived here for decades are telling me that they wouldn't move into the community with the way it looks now," said Commissioner Christopher Leonard at a special workshop on Jan. 6 to discuss possible changes to the city's code enforcement rules.

Leonard said the increasing numbers of foreclosures and the deteriorating economy are certain to increase the problem of unsightly properties.

"It's going to be a growing problem," he said.

The commission directed Community Development Director Karl Holley to bring back a new ordinance that would incorporate tougher codes used by other cities and Pinellas County with the city's existing codes relating to property maintenance.

The result will be a single ordinance where property owners — and city officials — can go to find out just what is and is not legal.

This will be the second time the city administration has presented a revised ordinance to the commission. The last time, in October, the commission told Holley it wanted more specifics on what property owners are allowed or not allowed to do, while ensuring that the new regulations are not "overly burdensome."

Holley said he studied ordinances from more than a dozen communities and recommended using codes from the city of Naples as the basis of the city's new rules.

That city's maintenance requirements focus on identifying situations that diminish property values of surrounding properties.

"The standards for maintenance of vacant lots is more specific than ours and does provide a basis for action against property owners," he said.

The more specificity there is in the code, the easier it will be for code enforcement officers to cite property owners, he said.

He cautioned, however, that the city will not cite "technical" violations unless there are repeated and strong complaints from neighbors.

One problem the city must be on guard against, he said, are "vendettas" among neighbors who constantly levy complaints against each other. Also, some residents are more tolerant than others about how their neighbors maintain their property.

"Any standard you have ultimately are just words on a piece of paper," Holley said. "Someone has to decide what are violations and inevitably there are citizens who will disagree with judgments that are made."

Repeated complaints against one property owner involve furniture and equipment left in the home's yard.

"How much lawn furniture are you allowed to have? What condition must it be in? These are questions that must be answered when defining visual blight," Holley said, stressing that detrimental conditions for a neighborhood "cannot always be defined in words."

He said no matter what rules are put into effect, he cannot guarantee that some residents will get "absolutely bent out of shape" about possible code violations on a neighbor's property.

When complaints are made, he said, the city will try to address the problem informally. If that does not work, official letters citing code violations are sent to the property owner. If the problem is not fixed, the violation eventually ends up in front of a special magistrate who can levy fines until the issue is addressed. The process can take months.

St. Pete Beach seeks to tighten code enforcement rules 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 5:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs defensive end Chris Baker (90) is seen during training camp last month at One Buc Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Bucs' defensive attributes in opener included flexibility


    TAMPA — It's a blink-and-you-miss-it nuance, but in Sunday's opener against Chicago, on their very first defensive snap, the Bucs lined up in a 3-4 defense.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter shakes hands with cornerback Brent Grimes (24) before an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  3. Along the Alafia River, the grateful extend a hand to the Irma-sodden weary


    LITHIA — The things that make a house a home dried in the afternoon sun Thursday in a front yard on Williams Street.

    Volunteers from FishHawk Fellowship Church helped Brian Hood (left) clean up debris from his yard in Valrico, Fla. Last week the Alafia River reached a depth of almost 23 feet, about 10 feet above its flood stage. Many homes were damaged, some became uninhabitable. Hood's home is 6 inches above Lithia Pinecrest Road, and did not sustain flood damage, though not all of his neighbors were as lucky.   [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  4. What to watch this weekend: 'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'DuckTales' returns


    Boldly go: Star Trek: Discovery

    It's been more than 50 years since the original Star Trek premiered, but the new CBS series is set 10 years before Kirk and Spock. Star Trek: Discovery explores the war between the Federation and the Klingons while following the USS Discovery, an exploratory …

    Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.
  5. First lady Melania Trump heads to White House garden for planting, harvesting


    WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is heading out to the White House garden to do some planting and harvesting.

    First lady Melania Trump picks peppers with a girl with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Washington. [Andrew Harnik | Associated Press]